Fantasy Island

From Academic Kids

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Tattoo and Mr. Roarke welcome vistors to Fantasy Island.

Fantasy Island is an American fantasy television series which ran from 1978 to 1984 on ABC television. It starred Ricardo Montalban as Mr. Roarke, the enigmatic overseer of a mysterious island somewhere in the Pacific Ocean where people from all walks of life could come and live out their fantasies... for a price.

Roarke was known for his white suit and cultured demeanor, and he was initially accompanied by an energetic sidekick, Tattoo, played by Herve Villechaize, who shouted "The plane! The plane!" to announce the arrival of a new set of guests at the beginning of each episode (a later, more sedate sidekick was potrayed by Christopher Hewett).

In the early seasons, it was noted that each guest had paid USD$50,000 in advance for the fulfillment of their fantasies and that Fantasy Island was, at its heart, a business. In later seasons, this aspect was downplayed and there were often supernatural overtones suggesting that Mr. Roarke was an angel, or perhaps a space alien or something else other-worldly, and that his powers to fulfill fantasies were the result of a supernatural being or beings needing to correct things that had happened in the past. Roarke's ability to create almost any environment on the Island with literally a snap of his fingers was never explained. In one notable episode late in the series, Roarke battled a character who appears to be The Devil (played by Roddy McDowall).

The usual format of each episode consisted of an introduction in which Roarke would describe to Tattoo (or another assistant) the nature of each person's fantasy, usually with a cryptic comment to the effect that the person's fantasy will not turn out as they expected. The episode would then alternate between two or three independent storylines as the guests experienced their fantasies and interacted with Roarke. Often, the fantasies would turn out to be morality lessons for the guests, sometimes to the point of (apparently) putting their lives at risk, only to have Roarke step in at the last minute and reveal the deception. It is mentioned a few times that a condition of visiting Fantasy Island is that guests never reveal what goes on there.

Prior to the long-running TV series, Fantasy Island was introduced to viewers through two highly-rated made-for-television films in which Mr. Roarke and Tattoo played relatively minor roles.

In 1998, ABC attempted a revival of the series. The role of Mr. Roarke was filled by Malcolm McDowell and, unlike the first series, the supernatural aspect of his character and of Fantasy Island itself was emphasized from the start. The supporting cast was also expanded for the new series. There was no attempt to replace Tattoo, so instead Roarke had a team of assistants—one of whom was a beautiful female shape shifter—who were assigned to help create and maintain the various fantasy worlds created on the island. Apparently these assistants were imprisoned on the island in order to pay off some debt, but the series was cancelled midway through the season and this subplot was never resolved. In an attempt to distance this series from the original, the new Mr. Roarke usually wore black.

The revival series also featured another subplot involving the travel agency that actually books the fantasies, and the two elderly travel agents played by Fyvush Finkel and, in her final acting role, 1930s silver screen leading lady Sylvia Sidney.

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